Food contact materials need stricter legislation
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Food contact materials need stricter legislation

EU’s food contact materials legislation is up for evaluation, and last month, the EU Commission’s public consultation on the matter came to a close.

The current legislation has a whole lot of room for improvements, so naturally ChemSec took the opportunity to comment on it during the consultation.

To start with, chemicals used in food contact material do not fall under the REACH regulation, and are not managed by ECHA.

Instead, the responsibility lies on EFSA – the European Food Safety Authority.

Due to this, several hazardous chemicals that have been identified as Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) and restricted under REACH are still allowed in food contact materials.

“Chemicals restricted under REACH are still allowed in food contact materials”

Substances that are restricted or phased out under the REACH regulation should, of course, be treated in the same way also when it comes to food contact materials.

Currently there is no link between data gathered by ECHA and the assessments of EFSA. Even if ECHA identifies a substance as a SVHC, it is not reflected in the regulation regarding food contact material.

One of the few food contact materials that even has a regulation is plastics. However, this regulation allows several SVHCs to be used in material that has direct contact with the food you eat.

An example of this are endocrine disruptors – such as phthalates and Bisphenol A, which are associated with cancer and birth defects, as well as developmental and reproductive disorders.

The EU Commission itself pointed out that public safety cannot be ensured by the current regulation”

According to the EU Commission, the lack of harmonised regulation hampers the free market since other food contact materials such as paper and board lack regulation all together. These materials are instead subject to national regulation, in those cases when there even is one.

The same goes for components to food packaging such as ink, coatings and adhesives.

Therefore, a harmonised regulation for all food contact materials is necessary and this regulation needs to be connected to REACH.

Another point ChemSec made in the consultation was that ways to ensure that future legislation is actually enforced must be established.

The EU Commission itself pointed out that public safety cannot be ensured by the current regulation. If the criteria are not established then safety cannot be demonstrated, making it impossible to ensure that the legislation is in fact enforced.

Main points from ChemSec in the public consultation on food contact materials:

  • Substances that are restricted or phased out under REACH should be treated in the same way when it comes to food contact materials.
  • A harmonised regulation for all food contact materials is necessary.
  • This regulation should be connected to REACH.
  • Enforcement of future legislation must be ensured.
  • Ways to assess safety need to be reviewed.